Good Friday commemorates the death of Jesus on Calvary, the site just outside the walls of Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified. It falls on the Friday before Easter, for 2024, that’s March 29. Most Christian denominations recognize Good Friday as a holy day, with many, including members of Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Lutheran faiths, fasting and attending church services. But there is so much more to this holiday than just these religious rituals. Good Friday is, for many, an intensely personal day of prayer and devotion. Let’s take a closer look.
History of Good Friday
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ at the site of Calvary is commemorated on Good Friday — a Christian religious holiday. Taking place during Holy Week, the holiday is considered part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday before Easter Sunday. The day is also widely known as Great Friday, Black Friday, or Holy Friday. Around the world, Good Friday is a national holiday in many countries, especially in the Catholic and Anglican nations. Fasting is the traditional way to observe this solemn day, followed by somber processions.
The exact origins of Good Friday are unknown, but the celebration dates back to the 4th century. Fasting and putting limitations on oneself to mourn the death of Jesus is an ancient practice. Why the holiday is called Good Friday is also unknown, but there are several theories. Some believe that ‘God’s Friday’ evolved to ‘Good Friday,’ while religious devouts firmly believe that the day is named ‘good’ as a symbol of Jesus and everything he stood for against evil-doers. It is also widely believed that Jesus died on a Friday, but this doesn’t explain the addition of ‘good’ to the holiday.
Jesus sacrificed his life out of love for his believers and all mankind. His death was the ultimate sacrifice. Despite it being a terrible day in history, the event paved the way for mankind’s salvation, with Jesus being resurrected two days later.
Good Friday timeline
Historians generally agree the birth of Jesus happened in Bethlehem between 6 B.C. and 4 B.C.
After heading to a high mountain to pray, Jesus' face begins shining, then his entire body glows with a white light.
Jesus begins his own ministry shortly after his baptism by John the Baptist.
Jesus is hanged on the cross between two thieves for six hours before dying.
Good Friday FAQs
Why do we call it Good Friday?
“That terrible Friday has been called Good Friday because it led to the Resurrection of Jesus and his victory over death and sin and the celebration of Easter, the very pinnacle of Christian celebrations,” according to the “Huffington Post.”
What happened on Good Friday?
Many Christians around the world observe Good Friday on the Friday before Easter Sunday. It commemorates Jesus Christ’s Passion, crucifixion, and death, which is told in the Christian Bible. It is the day after Maundy Thursday. Good Friday commemorates Jesus’ death on the cross.
Why do we call it Easter?
The naming of the celebration as “Easter” seems to go back to the name of a pre-Christian goddess in England, Eostre, who was celebrated at beginning of spring.
How to Observe Good Friday
Many Christian churches hold prayer services during the hours of Christ's crucifixion. Many religious people observe a period of prayerful silence during this time, especially between the hours of noon and 3 P.M.
Depending on your Christian denomination, it may be appropriate to fast on Good Friday. It is a traditional day of fasting within the Catholic Church, for example.
Jesus stressed the need to help those less fortunate than ourselves. If your religious beliefs allow it, consider volunteering at your church or in your community on this day in the spirit of giving back.
5 Good Friday Oddities
The name "Good Friday" goes back centuries
The earliest known use of the name "Good Friday" goes back to about 1290 in a text called "The South English Legendary."
Go fly a kite
In Bermuda, it's traditional to fly a kite on Good Friday, symbolizing both the cross and Jesus rising to heaven.
According to Christian tradition, when Jesus was crucified, there was darkness across the land and an earthquake.
Lucky cross buns
It is tradition to eat hot sweet cross buns on Good Friday, and it supposedly brings good luck.
Grab the scissors!
A widespread superstition is that getting a haircut on Good Friday prevents headaches for the rest of the year.
Why Good Friday is Important
It's a holy day
Jesus was forced to carry his cross to Calvary, where he was crucified alongside two criminals. He remained alive on the cross for up to six hours. According to biblical tradition, from noon to 3 P.M. on that day, the sky grew dark.
We're reminded of Jesus' sacrifice
Christian doctrine teaches that Jesus was born to a virgin, Mary. As an adult, he became a preacher, performing miracles, and then was put to death by authorities. This sacrifice allowed for the forgiving or pardoning of Christians' sins.
Just about every scholar of antiquity believes that Jesus was a historical figure. New Testament expert Bart Ehrman writes that "(Jesus) certainly existed, as virtually every competent scholar of antiquity, Christian or non-Christian, agrees."
Good Friday dates